NFU calls for “stability payments” amid Ukraine conflict disruption
NFU Cymru has said that disruption to food supplies caused by Covid-19 and the conflict in Ukraine should prompt a rethink of major changes to farm subsidies.
The Welsh government has responded by saying it was in an “ongoing process of engagement” with the industry and that the UK government will be announcing details of its sustainable farming scheme, which will replace EU-backed farm payments, later this year. An agricultural bill for Wales is set to follow soon after.
NFU Cymru president Aled Jones told the BBC that 2022 is a “seminal year” for the industry and, from a farming perspective, the new legislation would be “the most important to go through the Senedd in its 23 years of existence.”
A new funding model is set to focus on rewarding work to deliver clean air and water quality, mitigate flood risks, fight climate change and boost biodiversity. Improving animal health and welfare will also lead to funding for famers.
But NFU Cymru is making a final appeal for direct payment to farms to be retained as part of the new system. Direct payments provided “a key safety net for Welsh farmers” in the past, it said.
Jones added: “Access to safe, high quality, affordable food is the most basic fundamental right for all people in society and a key objective of the bill must be to underpin the production of a stable supply of safe, high quality, affordable food. The bill [set to be launched by the Welsh government] must also include mechanisms to ensure levels of domestic food production are assessed, maintained and enhanced alongside climate, biodiversity and broader environmental objectives.
“We have an ambition to sustainably grow our industry in Wales, increasing the contribution that Welsh food and farming makes to the economy of Wales, whilst meeting our aspiration to reach 2040 net zero against a backdrop where our nature thrives. Wales can be a world leader in the production of climate and nature friendly food.”
Arfon Williams of RSPB Cymru commented: “Any short-term gains in food production at the expense of the environment will have a significant impact on food production in the medium and long term.”
A Welsh government spokeswoman said stability payments for farmers would continue during and beyond this Senedd term as part of a transition to the new system, due to be introduced from spring 2023.